Coughing? When to quit over-the-counter medicine

(Nexstar) With so many viruses and even bacteria circulating this time of year, there’s a good chance you or someone in your household has recently contracted an illness. You may also be one of those unlucky people who suffer from chronic cough.

Before you take cough medicine or cough medicine supplements, you may want to consider all of your options.

No matter how annoying or bothersome a cough may be, sometimes it serves a purpose. The Mayo Clinic explains that a cough is your body’s response to something irritating your throat or airways.

The main viruses that are currently spreading are COVID, flu, and RSV, all of which can cause you to cough. Other infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis can cause a chronic cough, as can many other diseases and conditions. The Cleveland Clinic explains that there are different types of cough: acute cough, which may start suddenly and last for a few weeks; A mild cough that lasts for a few weeks to a few months after infection; Chronic cough, which lasts for more than two months; and refractory cough, or chronic cough that does not respond to treatment.

The type of cough you experience will affect the right treatment for you. For example, if your cough is caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

But, according to health experts, over-the-counter medication may not always be worth it.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a teaspoon of honey can work just like cough syrup or medicines. Doctors also warn that over-the-counter products often do not contain enough of the necessary medications to be effective.

It may also be best to let the cough take its course. Kaiser Permanente says you shouldn’t stop a productive cough that brings up mucus or phlegm, even though these are often productive. Dr. Harold Farber, a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital, explains that completely stopping the cough can lead to pneumonia and lung damage in some cases.

This may be true in children as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving over-the-counter cold or cough medicines to children younger than 4 years. Pediatrician Dr. Pamela Phillips explained in a Cedars Sinai blog post that these drugs can cause sedation, irritability, and behavioral changes that outweigh any potential benefits.

So what can you do instead?

The Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health simply recommend staying hydrated, especially if you have a productive cough with mucus and phlegm. If you are experiencing a sore throat along with a cough, you can try drinking tea or warm water with honey or lemon juice; Gargling with warm salt water; sucking on cough drops (which won’t affect your cough, Kaiser Permanente warns), or hard candy; spending time in moist air (like a hot bath); And avoid smoking or tobacco consumption. Doctors recommend raising the head while sleeping.

You can also continue using cough medicine. If you decide to reach for an over-the-counter product, Kaiser Permanente recommends avoiding products that treat multiple symptoms. Instead, try treating each symptom separately.

For productive coughs, you can try an expectorant, which works to thin mucus. If you have a dry cough at night, Kaiser Permanente recommends a suppressant, but again cautions against suppressing coughs too much, as coughing brings mucus from the lungs and helps prevent bacterial infections. Some of these products may help you sleep, some things you may lose at the expense of your cough.

If you think a product is working fine, it probably won’t harm you, although you’re paying for a placebo effect rather than a proven remedy, notes Harvard Health. Before taking an over-the-counter product, be sure to read the label.

If an over-the-counter product isn’t helping, experts recommend talking to your doctor. You should also seek medical attention if you are wheezing; have a fever lasting more than a day or two, or a fever higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit; feeling cold; Or phlegm that is yellow, green, or bloody, explains the Cleveland Clinic. If you feel as if you are suffocating, can’t breathe well, cough up a lot of blood, or have severe chest pain, you should seek emergency medical help.

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